Everywhere you go, you hear about how important it is to tell your story. But what actually do they mean when they say that?
Why tell stories?
We tell stories to connect with our readers as fellow humans beings, to touch them at the gut level. We tell stories because they create the imagery and sensory details that help our customers remember us: who we are, what we stand for, even why they should do business with us.
The purpose of storytelling is not just to entertain; we can play a video game or watch a TV reality show for that.
We tell stories to make a point: about our business, about what we believe to be true, about life itself. And the more intimately our listeners and potential customers feel they know us, the more likely they will be to consider entering into a business relationship with us.
But don’t you have to make stuff up to write a story, you ask.
A satisfying story can come from real life. Authors of some of the best nonfiction stuff out there—memoirs, biographies of successful industry leaders, how-to business books—know how to tell a story that keeps us on the edge of our chairs and coming back for more, like those tortilla chips you can’t get enough of at your favorite Mexican restaurant.
What’s your story?
The best stories, whether based on fiction or reality, make our listener say, yeah, I’ve done that, said that, felt that before. Or, I have that exact same problem and I’ve been itching to get rid of it.
We hang in through the whole podcast episode because we need to know the ending.
But most of all, we need to know the point of the story.
What if you have no story?
Don’t worry. You have a story. Unless your business popped into existence from a planetary void, part of the messy big bang, you have a story.
In fact, you are sitting on a lot of good stories. Whatever business you are in—web design, sales consulting, business coaching, speaking, ‘lawyering,’ selling shoes or something else— you have stories just waiting to be told.
Whether it’s on your own podcast or you are a guest, there are a bucketful of ways to weave storytelling into your online content.
5 ways to infuse storytelling into your podcast
1. Tell us a story that has a point.
If you are a random creative as I am, if your mind wanders and one idea triggers another, and another and another, you might want to nail down the point of your story before you start. Because as one southern writer, Flannery O’Connor, famously said:
“A story is a full action with a point.”
Your point is your theme, your story’s reason for being. Scribble it down. Keep it on a sticky note on your computer screen so it is staring you in the face as you record. Scrawl it in big, angry letters, all capitals if you must, so you can’t escape its gaze.
You may be solving a problem for your listener, in which case the solution you arrived at is your point. It’s the takeaway for me, your listener—something I can pick up, tuck under my arm, and use to make my own miserable existence better.
Without a point, you are just wandering in the desert. And no one, not one single one of us, is foolish enough to follow you for that. We have plenty of our own days of drought and meandering through the meaningless mazes of life.
2. Find something extraordinary in the ordinary.
What if a messy winter storm and an extended power outage on your little island brought you an a-ha moment, a piece of self discovery about building an online community , one that you just needed to share?
Maybe it was a shiny nugget you picked up on on a mundane trip to the grocery store to grab a jar of marinara sauce.
Or that time in Starbucks when that guy at the next table said something so profound that you just had to scribble it down and it became a line in your next podcast.
3. Send a major character packing.
Go ahead, do it. To make it more intriguing, let’s make that character the brand new baby in someone’s family. In your family.
Using the analogies of teenager (our longstanding, successful marketing business) and baby (our attention-hungry, needy new venture), when we made the decision to cut the strings on our second business.
Because our readers either had their own children or had been a sibling in a family, they could instantly relate. Our over-achieving adolescent child stood in the corner and glared at us as all our attention was directed to the new baby, who always needed something: food, a diaper change, a bandaid when he fell.
As the story ended, we, the parents, decided to give the little one away to focus all our energies on our gifted but neglected older daughter, the business we had nurtured for 17 years. Months later, people were still asking us, “So, how’s the teenager doing?”
They remembered the podcast because of the story.
4. Introduce a new sub-plot.
Your business travels along in the same way the plot of a story does. One thing happens, which causes another thing to happen, and on it moves, often quite predictably.
But sometimes there is a new development. You might call it a sub-plot or a plot twist. It could be a new product or service you are launching. Or maybe you have hired a new crackerjack of a manager who comes to your company with his or her own backstory.
These are prime opportunities to tell more stories.
5. Teach us with a parable that extracts a universal truth from a real-life event.
A parable? Couldn’t I start with something easier, you say.
The nice thing about a parable is that it helps us see the concept clearly, in a non-threatening way, without naming people and real companies.
When you get the hang of them, they are really quite simple. Just take a real life event and place it in a new setting, with new characters.
So when you have the chance to tell a good story, do it.